SEL Team

The SEL Department is here to help!

Main Office: 512.414.9791

The SEL department is made up of Cultural Proficiency & InclusivenessFamilies as Partners, Restorative Practices, and Social & Emotional Learning staff.


Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness/Restorative Practices

Administrative Supervisor

Angela Ward, PhD | 512-414-9591|

EIR Grant Coordinator

Sarah Johnson

Sarah supports restorative practice work at the following campuses: Barrington, Becker, Blanton, Blazier, Cook, & Pickle (elementaries), Burnet, Dobie, Garcia, and Mendez (middle schools).


Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness Specialists

Bavu Blakes |

Sara Freund

CP&I Grant Specialist

Rebekah Ozuna |

Rebekah supports Crockett's culturally responsive restorative practices associates and LMHPs at ALC & Covington under the OJJDP Grant.


Families as Partners

Parent Support Coordinator

Maria Rosas | 512.841.9615 |

Please visit the Families as Partners site for more information.

Self-Care Circles for Austin ISD Staff

Through a collaboration of Social Emotional Learning, Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness and the Equity Office, self-care circles provide a place for Austin ISD colleagues to connect and share our stories, so we can make meaning together during this challenging time.

Learn more about our offerings and registration here.


Social & Emotional Learning Team

Dr. Williams Photo

Interim Director of SEL

Dr. Twyla Williams |

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from Sam Houston State University, a Master of Arts from Prairie View A&M University, and a Doctorate in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University, Dr. Williams began her career as a middle and high school teacher. She continued her journey in education as an elementary, middle, high school counselor, secondary counseling coordinator and administrative supervisor for counseling crisis and mental health for Austin ISD. In addition, Dr. Williams taught graduate level courses in Counseling at Houston Baptist University and the University of Phoenix. Her great passion is bringing healing to students and their parents/caregivers who are dealing with traumatic or stressful experiences and helping them navigate the social and emotional components of life.

Photo of Caroline Chase, Asst. Director of SEL

Assistant Director of SEL

Caroline Chase | 512.414.9690

Caroline taught high school English and Communication Skills for eight years, middle and high school students in residential treatment for two years, and middle school self- contained social behavioral skills for six years. She also served for five years as a Special Education Behavior Specialist. She was a founding member of the SEL Department in July, 2011, and serves as the team lead.

Photo of Victoria Birkeland

SEL Communications Specialist

Victoria Birkeland

Victoria joined the Social and Emotional Learning team in the spring of 2017. Before that, she worked in the private sector for more than 10 years, gaining experience in marketing, communications and public relations.


Photo of James Butler

SEL Mindfulness Specialist

James Butler |

James has 14 years of teaching experience, mostly in Pre-K and K; here in Austin he's taught at Winn, Barbara Jordan, T.A. Brown and Gullett Elementary. In 2014, James was named Austin ISD Teacher of the Year. In 2009, James volunteered as a HS English and Math teacher at Mangetti Combined School in Namibia. He wrote a mindfulness curriculum for elementary schools called Mindful Classrooms: The Educator Guide. It's being used in over 60 schools and camps in six states. He joined the SEL team in July 2016 as the Mindfulness Specialist.

SEL Specialists

Photo of Angela Bailey

Elementary SEL Specialist

Angela Bailey

Angela has worked in Austin ISD for 15 years. Before joining the SEL team as an elementary specialist in 2013, she taught first grade along with SCORES / Special Education. During that time, she focused on the social and emotional development of her students to cultivate a safe, relationship-based community. She enjoys working collaboratively to provide optimal learning and support for students, staff and families. 

Photo of Mackenzie

Elementary SEL Specialist

Mackenzie Gandomi |

Mackenzie joined the SEL Team in July of 2020 as an elementary specialist, supporting Anderson and Navarro vertical teams. Previously, Mackenzie served as a second grade teacher and the Fine Arts Coordinator at Blackshear Elem., as well as an elementary school administrator outside of AISD. While teaching, the Department of Education Blue Ribbon Newsreel featured her classroom, highlighting her use of arts integration in order to create brave spaces for student learning. Mackenzie is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Principalship Program and she recently co-authored an article about restorative practice implementation published in The Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership. Mackenzie believes that teachers and schools have the capacity to empower students, families, and communities to harness their gifts and talents. 

Photo of Theresa Garcia

Elementary SEL Specialist

Theresa Garcia |

Theresa has 15 years of teaching and consulting experience in the public and private sector, primarily in early childhood education. Here in Austin, she has taught at Walnut Creek and Blazier elementary schools. Her Montessori training greatly influences her work in social and emotional learning and peace education. Theresa joined the SEL Department in August 2016 as an elementary specialist.


Photo of Emily Hoaldridge-Dopkins

Elementary SEL Specialist

Emily Hoaldridge-Dopkins |

Emily taught first and second grade in an East Harlem public school in NYC for eight years before returning to her home state of Texas. Emily planned and promoted a strengths based, safe, inclusive & culturally responsive classroom. Emily finds joy in blending social and emotional learning with mindfulness instruction as a foundation for implementing rigorous, academic, data-informed instruction. Emily is featured in Daniel Goleman's book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, where her school and classroom implementation of mindfulness is highlighted. She joined the SEL Department in February 2016 as an elementary specialist.


Photo of Jason Littlefield

Secondary SEL Specialist

Jason Littlefield |

Jason taught high school social studies for 10 years in Houston, Fort Worth and Bastrop. Prior to joining the SEL team he also served as a high school assistant principal and has coached football, baseball and powerlifting. Jason has also worked in schools in Taiwan, China and Benin, Africa. He joined the SEL Department in July of 2014 as a secondary specialist.

Photo of Katie O'Neil

Secondary SEL Specialist

Katie O'Neil |

Before joining the SEL team, Katie taught theatre arts, science and AVID at two AISD middle schools. She was an after-school program site director at Martin Middle School before getting her teaching certification. Earlier in her career, Katie led groups for young people addressing social/emotional well-being and healthy choices through the YWCA of Greater Austin, LifeWorks, SafePlace and other area nonprofits.​ She joined SEL in July 2014 as a secondary specialist.  

Photo of Amber Pleasant

Elementary SEL Specialist

Amber Pleasant

Amber has 17 years of teaching experience in Austin. She has taught early childhood through 8th grade. After graduating, Amber helped design a summer study program focused on Environmental Racism and the Environmental Justice Movement for college students. Her passions include culturally responsive teaching, leadership development, community building, and equity centered social and emotional learning. 

Photo of Aleza Sitarz

Elementary SEL Specialist

Aleza Sitarz

Aleza joined the SEL Department in July 2012 and currently supports 15 elementary campuses in Northeast Austin with their SEL goals. Aleza is also a project manager for the SEL Leadership Pathway, supporting teachers across the district in their SEL Micro-Credentialing process. Previously, Aleza was a curriculum consultant for Committee for Children where she helped envision and create the Second Step Principal Toolkit for school leaders. She also worked as a Prevention Educator for the non-profit LifeWorks supporting SEL growth with students and families in Austin. She is passionate about the capacity for learning and growth in schools where all students, staff, and families feel they belong. 

Photo of Sarah Stone

Secondary SEL Specialist

Sarah E. Stone, LMSW |

Sarah is a proud graduate of Austin ISD schools and has worked within AISD for 16 years. She has a special interest in equity-centered SEL practices, strategies for building distributive leadership, and practices to create student-centered schools. She joined the SEL Department in July 2013 as a secondary specialist.


Support Staff



Administrative Assistant

Dawn Goodman | 512.414.9791 |

Budget Specialist

Arleth De La Cruz  | 512.414.0874 |